NCAAF Pick: No. 1 LSU vs. No. 3 Clemson – National Championship – Monday, January 13

  • THE MATCHUP: No. 1 LSU vs. No. 3 Clemson
  • WHEN IS IT: Monday, January 13, 8:00 PM ET
  • THE LOCATION: Mercedes-Benz Superdome, New Orleans, LA
  • TELEVISION: ESPN

It’s usually the Alabama Crimson Tide who is the talk of college football every year, but this season, the No. 1 LSU Tigers (14-0, 8-0) (-5.5) have flipped the script. They’re the conversation piece of the nation, and for good reason: They sit atop the country with the No. 1 ranking.

It would be history making when LSU quarterback Joe Burrow won the Heisman Trophy last month, and he certainly deserved it. Not only is he the main reason why the Tigers have been so dominant this season en route to a 14-0 campaign, SEC championship and a berth into the national title game, but he’s also the main reason why LSU are betting favorites to take out the No. 3 Clemson Tigers (14-0, 8-0) (+5.5), the defending national champions, on Monday night in the College Football National Championship at New Orleans.

Statistical Comparison: Clemson Tigers vs. LSU Tigers

Offensive Production

Points-Per-Game

  • Clemson Tigers: 45.3
  • LSU Tigers: 48.9

Yards Passing

  • Clemson Tigers: 292.2
  • LSU Tigers: 397.2

Yards Rushing

  • Clemson Tigers: 246.1
  • LSU Tigers: 166.9

Defensive Protection

Points Allowed-Per-Game

  • Clemson Tigers: 10.6
  • LSU Tigers: 21.2

Pass Yards Allowed

  • Clemson Tigers: 138.5
  • LSU Tigers: 221.7

Rush Yards Allowed

  • Clemson Tigers: 106.2
  • LSU Tigers: 119.6

Last Five Games

Clemson Tigers

  • vs. No. 2 Ohio State Buckeyes (W 29-23)
  • vs. No. 23 Virginia Cavaliers (W 62-17)
  • at South Carolina Gamecocks (W 38-3)
  • vs. Wake Forest Demon Deacons (W 52-3)
  • at NC State Wolfpack (W 55-10)

LSU Tigers

  • vs. No. 4 Oklahoma Sooners (W 63-28)
  • vs. No. 4 Georgia Bulldogs (W 37-10)
  • vs. Texas A&M Aggies (W 50-7)
  • vs. Arkansas Razorbacks (W 56-20)
  • at Ole Miss Rebels (W 58-37)

Team Leaders

Passing Yards

  • Trevor Lawrence (Clemson Tigers): 250-370, 3,431 YDS, 36 TD, 8 INT
  • Joe Burrow (LSU Tigers): 371-478, 5,208 YDS, 55 TD, 6 INT

Rushing Yards

  • Travis Etienne (Clemson Tigers): 192 CAR, 1,536 YDS, 18 TD
  • Clyde Edwards-Helaire (LSU Tigers): 199 CAR, 1,304 YDS, 16 TD

Receiving Yards

  • Tee Higgins (Clemson Tigers): 56 REC, 1,115 YDS, 13 TD
  • Ja’Marr Chase (LSU Tigers): 75 REC, 1,559 YDS, 18 TD

Like LSU, Clemson is placed with an undefeated 14-0 record, but Clemson has an advantage that LSU doesn’t, and that’s a dominant stretch of winning. Not only is Clemson the defending national champions, but they’re also on a 29-game winning streak and are seeking their third national title in four years.

“It’s always good to have experience,” Clemson Tigers head coach Dabo Swinney said to the press earlier this week. “But we won the National Championship with a true freshman quarterback [Trevor Lawrence] last year. That was supposedly a disadvantage for us, so I don’t buy any of that stuff.”

As a starter, Lawrence has put up an undefeated 25-0 record, this after taking over the starting quarterback position early last year. Against the No. 2 Ohio State Buckeyes in the College Football Playoff Semifinal at the Fiesta Bowl, Lawrence was impressive, throwing two touchdown passes and rushing for more than 100 yards on the ground — he would get a third touchdown from the rushing attack with a 67-yard TD. On top of that, the clutch gene would also come out for Lawrence, driving the Tigers 94 yards down the field to score the winning touchdown with less than minutes left on the clock. Clemson would achieve the victory, 29-23.

“He makes some big-time plays in big-time ball games and for a big chunk of yards,” LSU head coach Ed Orgeron stated. “Obviously, he made some big gains against Ohio State, which helped them win the game.”

With all of that being said, LSU hasn’t just flipped the script on Alabama, but they’ve done the same thing to Clemson. Similar to how LSU has gotten more praise than Clemson this season, the same circumstances have transitioned to the quarterback position where Burrow has gotten more praise than Lawrence — deservingly so. Burrow was an absolute monster this season, breaking both the SEC-single season records for passing yards and touchdown passes. Again, this would be in the SEC conference doing this, it was just an incredible year for the 23-year-old.

“We have five NFL guys in routes every single snap, and it’s tough to cover,” Burrow commented. “We’re a tough matchup for a lot of people, and then I just try to get the ball in [his receivers’] hands on time and accurately and then let them do the rest.”

For LSU, their brightest spot is their offense, while for Clemson, it’s been their defense that has gotten the majority of praise over the last few years during their championship runs. With that being said, both teams have talent all-around to make them have complete rosters.

With Clemson’s defense, they’ve been extraordinarily flashy this year, having the No. 1 defense in the country when it comes to points allowed-per-game with a tally of 11.5, while they rank second when it comes to the fewest yards allowed at 264.1.

“You can tell that they have 11 really smart guys,” Burrow told reporters. “They do a lot of different things on defense, and they have a really good coach [defensive coordinator Brent Venables] that makes it difficult.”

LSU’s defense hasn’t been consistent at all this season, and their worst performance would be a dismal one. Against Ole Miss in November, they would allow a total of 614 yards, including 402 in rushing. However, the potency of the Tigers’ offense would do its thing to allow them to get the 58-37 victory.

Since that game, however, they’ve stepped up their product. In the last four contests, they’ve allowed averages of only 184 passing yards-per-game, 86 rushing yards-per-game and 16.3 points-per-game.

“I think after the Ole Miss game, it was kind of a turnaround for us,” LSU Tigers All-American safety Grant Delpit stated. “I think we just kind of lit a fire and started playing LSU football after that.”

Both teams have an advantage coming into the championship game: With LSU, they’ll pretty much have home-field advantage with the home-state crowd backing them with the game being in New Orleans, Louisiana. But they’re facing off against Clemson, who is a “been-there-done-that” team that can win no matter the circumstances. I mean, come on, they took out Alabama, twice, to win two national championships.

“I’ve been blessed to be a part of all four National Championship appearances all the way back to my redshirt year,” Clemson senior linebacker Chad Smith told the press. “That’s pretty surreal.”

This season, LSU has been absolutely glorious, taking out a total of six teams on their schedule who were ranked in the Top 10 when they would square off against them. With Clemson, they wouldn’t play a Top 10 team all season long until they would play Ohio State in the College Football Playoff Semifinal, but the championship team that we know would show up, erasing a 16-0 deficit to obtain the 29-23 victory.

“It’s a great matchup, the two best teams for this year, two great quarterbacks,” Swinney commented. “That’s the way a championship game ought to be.”

So, Who’s Going to Win?

I’ve got a simple question for everybody: Why are we all sleeping on Clemson and not giving them the proper respect? People are out here blatantly writing them off. I, however, think that the LSU hype machine is about to lose its steam as they face off against a team who is going for their third national championship in four years.

Spread:

  • Clemson +5.5 (-109)
  • LSU -5.5 (-110)
Money line:

  • Clemson +190
  • LSU -220
Total Points:

  • Over 69.5 (-105)
  • Under 69.5 (-110)

At the quarterback position between Burrow and Lawrence, the Clemson quarterback certainly had the tougher opponent taking on Ohio State, so you have to give him a break for not putting up the flashiest numbers in the semifinal round — that doesn’t stop the world of college football from consistently talking about Burrow though. I prefer to keep a focus on Lawrence personally, because you simply can’t deny that he did everything he needed to do to grab the victory to send his Tigers into the national championship. All time, Lawrence is an undefeated 25-0 as a starter at Clemson, so you can’t deny that the man is a winner.

Not only can Lawrence throw the ball, but he can also run on the ground, putting up 107 yards and one touchdown on 16 carries against the Buckeyes. On top of that, he’s a work horse, deliberately making contact with defenders in order to grind out as many yards as he could get, using his helmet and shoulder pads to do so. Say what you want about Burrow, and he’s a great one, there’s no doubt about that, but Lawrence is pretty damn special himself, consistently delivering magic to grab wins. I think the world will see that on Monday night when Lawrence and Clemson take out Burrow and LSU to win a repeat national championship.

LSU has played some pretty stiff competition this season, but they haven’t quite played a defense like Clemson’s, and Burrow will get heat from them that he hasn’t experienced all season. Against Ohio State, they would force quarterback Justin Fields to throw two interceptions and would also rack up nine tackles for a loss. The defense of LSU has improved this season, but the inconsistency leaves a lot of vulnerability against a team like Clemson — a weaker Alabama would expose LSU plenty in their matchup, something that Clemson could take advantage of. Lawrence has a great opportunity to flame up LSU’s defense like a regular ol’ fashioned Louisiana fish fry, and that’s exactly what I have him doing, reminding everyone of why they shouldn’t have forgotten about him and Clemson.

GAME FORECAST
According to ESPN’s Football Power Index, the Clemson Tigers have a 55.8% chance of winning the game over the LSU Tigers and their 44.2% figure.

Give me Clemson for the victory, as well as the points, for the repeat national championship in a wild high-scoring affair, with Clemson’s defense ultimately grinding out the win, containing Burrow just enough, after Lawrence and their offense puts 40+ points on the board. Don’t bet against Dabo Swinney and the Clemson Tigers, a program who has won two national championships in three years, and going for the third in four. It’s just a bad idea with these circumstances, despite how great Burrow and LSU has been this season.

BETTING PREDICTION: Clemson 45, LSU 38

Andrew Powell / Author

Andrew Powell has been working with The Sports Geek since November 2018 providing analysis and predictions in both the realms of sports and politics. Studying journalism through the University of Michigan, Powell's experience in sports includes tenures at mainstream newspapers The Williamsport Sun-Gazette and The Lock Haven Express, and he would also be affiliated with FOX Sports Radio 1340 AM in Hopewell, Virginia. In politics, it would include a stint with Mad World News and multiple with the Republican Party. From the Super Bowl to The Kentucky Derby to President Donald Trump's hair, Powell has you covered at The Sports Geek.